KARACHI: Pink Ribbon’s annual fundraiser for the first ever dedicated breast cancer hospital in Lahore was held on Sunday at a local hotel where donors offered support to the battle against a disease that kills around 40,000 women in Pakistan every year.

October is breast cancer awareness month; breast cancer is among the most common forms of cancer worldwide, and Pakistan has one of the highest incidences of breast cancer in Asia. There is a battle that needs to be fought locally against the stigma attached to the disease as well as lack of information and awareness; apart from access to the best possible medical care.

The hospital’s phase one construction has been completed — 10,000sq ft out of 30,000. It is expected that once the hospital is complete, for the first time women in Pakistan suffering from breast cancer can avail different diagnostic facilities concerning the detection, as well as treatment and rehabilitative care concerning the illness.

Some of the key facilities that the hospital is set to offer include an OPD, radiology, radiotherapy, surgical and chemotherapy unit, along with a state of the art laboratory.

Playwright Haseena Moin, who is a breast cancer survivor, was present and spoke to the audience about her own experience. She explained that no pain is felt in the initial stages, so it is of utmost importance for women to do regular check-ups and screenings as the earlier the detection the greater the chance of survival. She lauded the efforts of Pink Ribbon in establishing a facility that would make it easier for women suffering from breast cancer to have different facilities all under one roof.

CEO of Pink Ribbon Pakistan Omer Aftab highlighted how big an issue the disease has become. “10.2 million Pakistani women are at high risk [of] breast cancer which is very alarming. The hospital’s remaining construction will be completed by the end of 2019. We have also initiated a mobile mammogram unit to reach far-flung areas. The hospital will also encourage research on this disease as well as setting up a training institute. There will also be a 24-hour helpline service at the hospital.”

The purpose of the fundraiser was to break the silence and stigma surrounding breast cancer, bring this disease in the national health agenda, and create awareness of early diagnosis as well as advocacy.

In aid of the breast cancer hospital, Manto’s short story ‘Badhshahat Ka Khatma’ was adapted into a play directed by Khalid Ahmed.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2018